Tags: Abraham Charnes, Alan Waterman, Alfred Sloan, Allen Newell, Beatrice Cherrier, Charles Holt, Edward L. Bowles, Eli Shapiro, Franco Modigliani, Henry Stimson, Herbert Simon, Horace Levinson, Hunter Heyck, Jay Forrester, Joel Isaac, John Muth, Judy Klein, Karl Compton, Marion Foucarde, Paul Samuelson, Philip Morse, Rakesh Khurana, Robert Solow, William Larimer Mellon Sr., William W. Cooper
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This post continues my provision of supplementary commentary for my Business History Review article, “Operations Research vis-à-vis Management at Arthur D. Little and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1950s” (Thomas 2012). In it, I look at a history split between this article and my 2009 article with Lambert Williams, “Epistemologies of Non-Forecasting Simulations, Part I: Industrial Dynamics and Management Pedagogy at MIT” (Thomas and Williams 2009).
When MIT established its new School of Industrial Management (SIM) in the early 1950s, the institute’s administrators sought a signature approach to the subject reflecting its strengths in science and engineering. This search moved from operations research (OR) to Jay Forrester’s “industrial dynamics”. In the end, neither approach became the distinguished approach to management that MIT sought, though SIM and OR would both become individually successful within the Institute.
The last part of this post puts this story in the context of the more successful effort of the Carnegie Institute of Technology to develop a high-profile program for its Graduate School of Industrial Administration, which was established around the same time. Carnegie Tech’s approach to management had strong intellectual connections with academic economics — an intellectual model that soon attracted the field of OR into its orbit. The equivalent intellectual and institutional movement at MIT was to be found in the ascendancy of its economics department.
OR vis-à-vis Management in the 1950s: Background May 29, 2012Posted by Will Thomas in Commentary Track, Operations Research.
Tags: Alfred Chandler, Andrew Abbott, Christopher McKenna, John D. C. Little, John Magee, Philip Morse, Walter Friedman
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I have a new article out: William Thomas, “Operations Research vis-à-vis Management at Arthur D. Little and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1950s,” Business History Review 86 (2012): 99–122. Thanks to the journal’s liberal author’s rights, you can download your very own copy by clicking on the title. Here’s the abstact:
This article examines the establishment of the field of operations research (OR) at the Arthur D. Little consulting firm and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. OR advocates envisioned the field as a new kind of bureaucratic organ dedicated to general studies of business problems, staffed by trained scientists who could employ sophisticated methods if needed. The crux of their promotional strategy was to use their appreciation of general managerial practice to overcome the tensions to be expected from their claims to apply generic scientific methods to nonscientific activities. However, they discounted possible intellectual competition with established professions. This competition ultimately confined OR’s identity to a jurisdiction defined by novel mathematical techniques.
I’d like to try a little experiment with blogging as a complement to official publication. As all historians of science know, there is much more to science than the sum total of what is contained in published papers, and this, certainly, is no less true of the history of science literature itself. So, starting with this post, I’d like to use EWP to add some commentary on this article. I don’t think the article is especially worthy of such treatment, but I think it would be a better world if authors did this sort of thing for everything they wrote.
The 20th-Century Problem: Krige and National Narrative November 8, 2009Posted by Will Thomas in 20th-Century-Science Historiography.
Tags: Cathryn Carson, Dieter Hoffmann, Gabrielle Hecht, Jessica Wang, John Krige, Kristie Macrakis, Niels Bohr, Philip Morse
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In my last discussion of the challenges involved in writing about the history of science in the 20th century, I noted that local narratives can be taken to be revealing of broader issues, but that such narratives can also simply reflect back some larger narrative already understood to exist. In this post we take this consideration to the case of the national narrative.
John Krige’s 2006 book American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe is, I would say, an important step in the establishment of a historiography of post-1945 science on the European continent. Until recently, the history of scientific Europe in this period has not been systematically explored. 1999′s Science under Socialism, edited by Dieter Hoffmann and Kristie Macrakis (who just joined Krige at Georgia Tech this year), etched out a picture of science in East Germany. Cathryn Carson has written on science in West Germany (publications list here). In 1998′s The Radiance of France (out in a new edition this year), Gabrielle Hecht wrote on the development of the unusually important nuclear power industry in that country. The object here is not to put together a complete bibliography, but if anyone wants to add to the picture of this historiography, please do leave a comment.
Krige’s book covers a lot of important bases, looking at the Marshall Plan, NATO, the State Department and CIA, the activities of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, and the establishment of CERN (on which he has written more extensively elsewhere) as institutions linking American and European science and politics. (Here one should also make note of Ron Doel‘s ongoing project to study American science’s diplomatic uses.) Similar to Needell’s book on Lloyd Berkner, the emphasis here is on individual cases. In this case, different (more…)